Jesus gives us...
Elders, Deacons and Saints
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10 years ago – prayer meeting, audible voice of God “Call it the Gateway, it will be a gateway for the gospel to go to the nations.”
Moved with 10 adults in Sept 2007 – Paul & Pat, Andy & Jenny, Janet & I, Doreen and 3 others
Keith Hazell long established track record as a prophet, 8-10year guy! Oct 2008 Wave is coming that will swamp you if you are not prepared. Don’t pray for it to come, it is coming. Get ready for it!
Julian Adams Herald of a new move of God.
Recent prophetic data pointing to a wave coming soon.
So we need to be ready.
Surfboard analogy. Out in the waves doing the stuff ready for it to come, not sat on your bum watching God TV
In Oct 13 we had got to rock bottom and had shrunk to about 35 people. I was able to appoint a core team to help me lead the church Paul & Pat, David & Kathleen, Andy & Jenny and we immediately started to grow to around 120 today. Andy & Jenny stepped down last year and Mike & Debs joined the team.
With growth like that we have been creaking for a while and I had been firefighting more than getting ready for a wave.
Last October Paul & Pat came to see me and helpfully pointed out two vulnerabilities in the Church
I was still the single elder – the Biblical pattern is for a team of elders to lead
Prayer life of the church was weak.
They said we don’t see ourselves as elders, we are deacons. So I asked them who they thought was coming through. I’ll tell you who they said later!
Then I went to see David & Kathleen after his hip op. Sitting with him they said they felt they should step down from the core team and allow younger blood to come through. I asked them who they thought was the younger blood to co-elder with me and they said the same person as Paul & Pat – I’ll tell you who later!
Thank David & Kathleen for helping us through that difficult period in 2013 and getting us to where we are now. We’d love to give you some flowers and take some moments to pray and thank God for you both.
So Paul & Pat and David & Kathleen gave me the impetus to put down the fire hose and start working on the long term leadership structure, so we can do it well now and be ready for an amazing wave of growth.
Turn in your Bibles with me to Phil 1:1 Paul writes to the elders, deacons and saints. That’s the basic nomenclature for leadership in the early church – we’ve added on so many confusing titles Vicar, Rural dean….
In the New Testament churches are lead by a team of elders, assisted by deacons and filled with saints. As we will see when we look at the character qualifications and back it up with Gal3:27 which tells us we are all one in Christ – it’s a flat structure, not a hierarchy. We are all one, equal in status, but with different roles.
Problem is we have 2,000 church life to mess up how it works, so we need to get back to the Bible. Consider those three words Elder, deacons, saints.
Elders – there are a couple of spotty teenagers wandering round town on a year out with badges that say they are Elder Dodah and Elder Dahdo. Fine, young men, smart, clean living and friendly. But they are Mormons and not all the men of a church are elders!
Deacons – some have come from a Baptist background, where the deacons were often dreaded and the deacons meeting often described as the demons meeting! There’s a joke about a guy meeting an old deacon and asking him “You must have seen many changes over the decades.” “Yes and I resisted them all”
Then Saints – if you are from a Catholic background, saints are kida special. You have to be dead, and while dead perform two posthumous miracles. Then there is a convocation (sounds painful) in Rome where eventually the RC Church may decide to make you a saint.
We need to recover the Biblical definitions of those three words and use them properly. Which is what we will do!
1 Peter 5:1-4 gives a helpful description of eldership in the local church
- Shepherd the flock – look after them, pastor them
- Exercise oversight – bring wisdom
- Not under compulsion but willingly – with a sense of calling and joy at the God given role
- Not for shameful gain – so no jets here!
- Not domineering over those in charge – no bullies
- But being examples – so living by example, doing it for the reward of a crown when Jesus returns.
I think there are four basic roles of elders
Embody – what God wants, we will look at the character qualifications in a moment. They also embody the vision of the Church and the values we live by
Guard – In Acts 20 Paul is echorting the newly appointed elders in Ephesus to their role. In v29 he says to them “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock” and then he warns them wolves are on the way. Elders guard the church from false doctrine and from wolves coming to hurt the sheep
Guide – like shepherds as we just read in 1 Peter 5
Govern the affairs of the church. In Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy ch5:17 he says let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. Elders do the main work of preaching and teaching and setting the doctrine for others to teach. They seek God for the vision and strategy of the church and exercise discipline where needed.
In 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1:7-9 Paul sets out the qualifications for eldership – they are mainly character, because the role is so much being an example.
Let’s read Titus 1:5-9
First thing to note is that eldership is a male role. That’s about as popular as a pork sausage in a synagogue, but we a Biblical people. The way I see Scripture is that eldership in the church is the only role that is male only and actually not even open to all the men either. The role of the elders is to equip and release all the flock men and women into their callings and giftings. So we will continue to build to Biblical culture and in this be counter-cultural. Our heart is not to put anyone down, but to see all of us released into the roles that God has for us.
One life one wife guy
Believing children –not debauched or insubordinate
Must be above reproach – no skeletons in the cupboard
Not quick tempered
Not a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain
Hospitable – don’t forget that word in Greek translates as “Love foreigners and strangers” – so someone who opens their home to non-believers to help them find Jesus
A Lover of good
Self controlled, upright, holy and disciplined
Holding fast to the truth, so he can teach.
In the book of Acts the apostolic team would go into a town preach the gospel and plant a church, returning to appoint elders. So the process of appointing elders must be that we begin to recognise men with that call on their life who are acting like elders. There’s a period of reflection – Paul says elsewhere don’t lay on hands hastily and then the apostolic team come and lay hands on the new elders alongside any current elders and the church.
So I’ve been the only elder for too long and I’ve had my eye on the same guy that Paul and Pat and David & Kathleen identified. So I’d like to commend Kees to be a fellow elder with me. Over the next few months he will meet Maurice from the Relational Mission apostolic team, but I’d like to hear from you if there are any reasons why not too! We are not going to rush as being elder is a weighty thing and we want to get this right for the long haul and surfing the wave.
I’m a firm believer that you should have more elders than you currently need so that we can grow and train people up to be sent out to plant – so I’ve got my eyes open and I’d love to hear if there are others you think are emerging!
In Acts 6:1-4 a problem emerged, the Greek Christian widows weren’t getting looked as well as those from a Jewish background and the church was growing, so people were moaning and the elders were having to get stuck into it. So they appointed deacons – men in the first instance who were full of the Spirit and wisdom to serve, so they could get on with praying and ministering the Word.
Deacons serve the eldership in leadership roles to release the eldership to embody, guard, guide and govern. In Acts 6 they were reactive to sort a problem, but as the churches grow there would have been proactive appointments.
Deacons and deaconesses – of course this is a role open to men and women. And there are many deaconesses like Lydia and Priscilla, Euodia and Synteche mentioned.
So as church we are forming a leadership team of elders and “proto-elders” and then releasing deacons to look after various areas of the church, so that we can continue to grow. There are some who have been functioning as deacons and over time we will appoint many more!
Andy King is resurrecting the hope team so that we can get even better at caring for one another
Paul & Pat are taking on the prayer life of the church so that we become a praying church, not just a church with a prayer meeting.
Sarah is our administrative deacon
Our small group leaders are functioning as deacons too Tim, Irene, Jane, Janet, David & Kay
Can you stand and lets applaud you!
Finally we are all saints
Saint is one of the more common Biblical names for Christians – all Christians. Not just the saintly ones!
Corinth was a complete mess and yet Paul address them as saints. As he does to the Philippians and the Ephesians and the Romans.
If you have trusted Jesus as your Lord and saviour you are a saint. A holy one, because Jesus has made you holy. Start seeing yourself as a saint not a sinner!
The Israelites got in a mess when they saw themselves in their eyes as grasshoppers compared to the Canaanites.
If you see yourself a sinner, you will behave like one. If you see yourself as a saint, you will start to behave like one.
This elders, deacons, saints stuff is so important. Someone thought I wanted Kees as a fellow elder, so I could have a friend alongside me. It is so much more than that.
Christ died for the church, his glorious bride and he wants to make us ready to present to the Father holy and blameless, made up of every tribe and tongue and nation, men and women, spotless in him.
He died to make you a saint from the very second you believed.
He died to pour out His Spirit to empower many of you to be deacons – filled with the Spirit and wisdom and he died to call some of the men to embody the vision and values, guide, guard and govern local churches so they could be outposts of heaven on earth.
I am believing God for a mighty wave of the Spirit to come that will make us heralds of a new move of God and will cause hundreds and thousands to be saved and added and teams to be sent planting churches. I want us to be doing the stuff, so when the wave comes, we can ride it not be swamped by it.
We are on the verge of the promised land – don’t miss it by sitting rather than doing and moaning rather than serving!
As we start this journey of Kees heading towards eldership, let’s pray for Kees and Sarah and also the deacons we have so far too – Andy & Jenny, Paul & Pat and the small group leaders….
If you see yourself as a sinner not a saint and you’d like that to change do come forward now so we can pray for you too!
Do also get in touch if you have any comments about the process for Kees becoming and elder!